Boeing Working on Single-Pilot Planes With Help From Autonomous Technology

Current aviation regulations in the US and the European Union stipulate that a passenger jet carrying a minimum of 20 people must have at least 2 crew members in the cockpit at all times, in order to be able to fly the plane. Boeing says it’s working towards making this safety measure unnecessary.
Boeing is eyeing self-piloted planes with autonomous technology 5 photos
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Steve Nordlund, a vice president at Boeing, tells The Independent that autonomous technology will soon allow just one pilot to safely fly the plane. Much of the flight is automated already, but the human element is still necessary; thanks to the autonomous technology, one man will be enough.

This will help to cut down costs but it will also save airlines a major headache given the current pilot crisis. Nordlund says development is progressing at “good speed,” adding that the company “believes in autonomous flight and [the] self-piloted aircraft.”

However, because of existing aviation rules and people’s reticence of trusting their lives to technology almost one hundred percent, the technology will probably be used first on cargo jets, Nordlund concedes. Once testing is carried out and the results are encouraging, the company will consider implementing it on passenger airplanes.

Of course, that would mean a change in international regulation. For the time being, Europe’s aviation safety authority, EASA, wouldn’t even discuss such a possibility, even though Boeing isn’t the only company working on autonomous technology – Airbus has also gone public with plans in this direction.

“I don't think you'll see a pilotless aircraft of a 737 in the near future,” Nordlund explains. “But what you may see is more automation and aiding in the cockpit, maybe a change in the crew number up in the cockpit.”

“A combination of safety, economics and technology all have to converge, and I think we are starting to see that,” the Boeing vice president adds.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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